- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2001

President Bush yesterday dismissed assertions that the United States doctored an incriminating videotape of Osama bin Laden as "preposterous" and said "it doesn't matter to me" if the terrorist is captured dead or alive.
"It is preposterous for anybody to think that this tape is doctored," Mr. Bush told reporters in the Oval Office. "That's just a feeble excuse to provide weak support for an incredibly evil man."
Bin Laden's supporters have questioned the validity of the tape, which was released by the Pentagon on Thursday and shows the terrorist leader bragging about the September 11 attacks. Some supporters have suggested that inflammatory rhetoric was dubbed into the tape, and others have speculated that the tape showed a look-alike who underwent plastic surgery to more closely resemble bin Laden.
"Those who contend it's a farce or a fake are hoping for the best about an evil man," the president said as he met with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
"I mean, this is bin Laden unedited. This is the bin Laden who has murdered people.
"This is the man who sent innocent people to their death," he added. "This is a man who is so devious and so cold-hearted that he laughs about the suicide so-called suicide bombers that lost their lives."
Mr. Bush was referring to bin Laden's mirth as he told a group of flatterers that some of his terrorists did not know they were about to die until just before they boarded planes to hijack them September 11.
In his first public comments since the tape was released, the president revealed that he deliberated on the pros and cons of making the tape public.
"You know, I had mixed emotions about this tape, because there's a lot of people who suffered as a result of his evil," Mr. Bush said. "And I was hesitant to allow there to be a vivid reminder of their loss and tragedy placed on our TVs.
"On the other hand, I knew that the tape would be a devastating declaration of guilt for this evil person," he added.
With U.S. forces bearing down on al Qaeda's last few cave complexes in Afghanistan, Mr. Bush expressed no preference for the method of apprehending bin Laden.
"I don't care, dead or alive," he said with a shrug. "Either way. I mean, it doesn't matter to me."
The president acknowledged that apprehending a particular terrorist leader has proven more difficult than routing the entire Taliban and al Qaeda.
"We're achieving a lot of our objectives, but we're chasing a person," he said. "Obviously, he's willing to send suicide bombers on the one hand, and hide in a cave, somebody who encourages young people to go kill themselves, and he, himself, refuses to stand and fight.
"And so he may hide for a while, but we'll get him," Mr. Bush added. "I don't know whether we're going to get him tomorrow or a month from now or a year from now. I really don't know, but we're going to get him."
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer later cautioned reporters not to read anything into the president's reference to the possibility of getting bin Laden "tomorrow." The president himself said it could take much longer.
"The American people must understand that I have no timetable in mind," Mr. Bush said.
"I don't have a calendar that I say, 'Well, gosh, if he's not gotten by this certain moment, then I'll be disappointed,' because I am pleased with the progress that we're making in Afghanistan. I mean, there is no such thing as a Taliban."
Mr. Bush made no secret of his pride over the success of U.S. forces in defeating the Taliban militia in Afghanistan.
"We have literally liberated village after village from incredible barbaric behavior toward women and children," the president said. "I think one of the joyous parts of this war if there is such a thing as a joyous part of a war is to see what it means for our country and our alliance to free people."
Later yesterday, Mr. Bush signed a bill to expand an anti-drug program during the next five years. He pointed out that the al Qaeda terrorism network has been financed by the heroin trade.
"Trafficking of drugs finances the world of terror, sustaining terrorists," the president said. "If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terrorism."

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